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Mastering Version of Gear
Old 22nd January 2007
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phelbin's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Mastering Version of Gear

I just have a simple question. What is the main difference between the mastering version of a piece of gear and the non-mastering version? Other than the extra money, is there a sonic difference?
Old 22nd January 2007
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Cellotron's Avatar
Verified Member
3 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Originally Posted by phelbin ➡️
I just have a simple question. What is the main difference between the mastering version of a piece of gear and the non-mastering version? Other than the extra money, is there a sonic difference?
In general the main difference between "mastering" and standard versions of outboard gear is that the mastering version has stepped switches (or if they are cutting corners in expense, detented potentiometers) in place of continous sweepable pots, to allow for easier and more precise recall of settings.

Other differences you'll see on "mastering" eq's is smaller gain steps (i.e. the API550B is 2dB steps, while the API550M is 0.5dB steps).

Some "mastering" versions of gear also adds features (i.e. things like built in M/S matrixes, or high pass filters for sidechains on compressors), and once in a while modifications (such as balancing inputs or output with transformers) or upgrades to the signal path that will indeed change the sound over the standard units.

But usually a mastering version is just easier to do recalls on.

Best regards,
Steve Berson
Old 23rd January 2007 | Show parent
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Gravity8058's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Paul at Manley told me the Mastering vrs of the Vari Mu sounds better than the normal model. I think he said they use certain parts for the detented pots that actually sound better.
Old 23rd January 2007 | Show parent
Gear Maniac
Bob Boyd's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Ideally (but not always) mastering versions will feature a true hardwire bypass. This is one of the changes made on the Manley Massive Passive mastering version for example.
Old 23rd January 2007 | Show parent
jayfrigo's Avatar
Verified Member
🎧 15 years
To expand upon the points above, yes there can be and usually are sonic advantages to the mastering versions.

Also, it is more than just easy recall of settings, though that is one advantage, and a necessity in some vinyl mastering workflows.

The switched controls offer several additional advantages. Each switch position has it's own values that offer very precise settings in frequency selection, gain setting, and Q, and accuracy unfound in continuos potentiometer designs. This means that when you reach for a +1.5 dB boost at 250 Hz, you don't get a 1.7 dB boost at 273 Hz. It also means that you can precisely match both left and right to maintain a stable image and reduce unwanted phase distortion artifacts. The switches also usually offer better sound quality, and better durability, offering better quality over time as compared to pots that are wearing out, as the connection offered by the better parts with better contacts is often measureably superior. These parts are certainly considerably more expensive, hence the additional cost for mastering versions.

Other differences that have been previously mentioned include the smaller steps, and other things that mastering engineers will find useful, perhaps including lateral/vertical control, beefed up power supplies, metering options etc.
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